Tuesday, November 30, 2004

How To Destroy A Country In 10 Days

First off, apologies for not yet posting about Saturday night - there is much to say, but I'm not ready to say it out loud for all to read.

Last night I went with a few peeps from my course to see The Corporation at the Belmont Cinema (which reached temperatures beyond 100F at the end of the film - I don't think the Belmont manages many sell-outs). I wish I'd written this post last night, as I managed to let my mind wander over the film for a while last night.

The film basically told the history of the American corporation, how they are soulless, destructive forces and how we're all basically fucked because of them (thanks!).

I remember roughly this time last year going to a few careers presentations by companies like IBM, Microsoft and BAE. At BAE's talk, they mentioned about 10 minutes in that they made military aircraft (their slideshow seemed to focus on "cutting edge technology", not on burning buildings or corpses), and this revelation was enough to convince me that I never wanted to work for BAE. At the time I basically swore off prospective employers if they were involved in war funding, research and the like.

After last night, the list of companies to avoid has grown. Considerably.

Once again about a year ago a careers advisor told me that I should investigate a companies financial background, etc. if I was considering working for them, to get an idea of how well the company has done recently, where it began, that sort of thing. I did this for the few companies I had interviews with, but never with any conviction.

I shall from now on be checking, long and hard, the background of any large business for the kind of deceitful and disgusting things discussed in The Corporation.

I think part of the problem for my previous lack of interest in who I could end up working for is that I've always taken the path of least resistence in employment and education. During summer breaks, I took the first job offered (partly because getting an offer at all was not easy). At the start of Uni, I took physics to take up credits because I'd done well at it at school, and was fairly confident of getting a good grade with it in first year. I wish now I'd taken German - something I've wanted to pick up again for a good while - even if it meant that my GPA was dragged down a bit.

What no one told me before Uni was that first year doesn't matter. As long as you get a high enough GPA to make it into second year, you're set. There's also the whole learning side to it, but quite a lot of the computing, maths and physics I was taught in first year was repeating te Sixth Year Studies courses from school.

It's probably better that I didn't write this post last night - I've managed to forget some of the train of thought that spawned it, so be thankful that I'm not feeling 100% at the moment - I had a monster of a hangover on Sunday (all day long), that's still with me now.

This is bad news as I'm potentially travelling to Glasgow again this weekend for Lauren's birthday on Friday, then my sister's flatwarming on Saturday. If I still feel off tomorrow, I don't think I'll make it: I'm quite close to boarding the wagon until I feel better, and two drinking sessions without drink may affect that.

Maybe I just need to learn how to enjoy a night out without drink, but that'll never happen, so instead learning when to stop drinking before I get to bedlam status would have to do.

More Daftness

A quick post to help explain the last one, made in a bit of a rush:

I went to see The Darkness on Friday night with my sister, and met the happy couple during the show. It was a really good show, even Ash played well as ever (though still failing themselves with the soppy numbers).

As for my last post, I can't take all the credit, as the lyrics were written by Ginger of The Wildhearts, and used on his acoustic album Great White Monkeys. I would recommend that you go out and buy this, but you can't. Nor can you get a signed copy like I have!

More to come shortly...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

And Now Things Get Complicated

On Saturday night I went to the Therapy? concert with my sister and a group of the kids I know from Aberdeen: Fiona+Colin, Flofe, Sarah, Suzanne+Ben and Emily (a new face from down the road somewhere).

The gig was in Moshulu (my normal weekend haunt, only recently offering live acts, perhaps trying to head for Cathouse status), and was very good. Andy Cairns appeared to be heading even further towards being a cartoon version of himself, Michael McKeegan said "fan-fucking-tastic", which is always enough to put a smile on my face, and the set basically rocked. They did neglect Shameless and played much of Troublegum, but I could forgive this since Troublegum is such a masterpiece.

I sang along to many songs, though chose not to join in with chants of "James Joyce is fucking my sister" during Potato Junkie, since Christine was a bit annoyed at me singing it the last time we saw Therapy? in Glasgow!

After the show my sister headed home (still against alcohol after a heavy Garage night out two days earlier), I bought myself a Therapy? beanie to replace the beanie I can't seem to find anywhere, then went next door to The Bassment with the rest of the gang to meet Keith and Peter (they were kicking us out of Moshulu to clear the stage anyway).

About an hour later we went back to Moshulu, but found a queue of people outside waiting for the door to be unlocked. I, like others from the concert, had left my jacket in Moshulu's cloak room, and so was freezing in the nippy Aberdeen drizzle. After 5 minutes my tough-guy facade broke, and I went back to The Bassment for another drink.

I ordered a Jack and Coke, and was given a double for the same price because the barman made me wait while he changed bottles of JD. A nice change to find a pleasant barman, but the glass he gave me was miniscule, and I had only meant to go there for 2 minutes, so the double was downed quickly and painfully.

Eventually we were back in Moshulu (minus Suzanne and Ben, and shortly after Fiona and Colin, as both females had work to do the next day). There were one or two other guys with us at our table, but I never spoke to them, nor could I now pick them out of a line up.

While I'm still cognitive, I should mention I bought a round for the boys and myself at one point, and cleverly chose to go to the bar beside where Andy and Michael from Therapy? were standing. And I got speaking to Andy. And I bought Michael a drink. And they're really nice guys and a refreshing change to the last time I met a band member (Ginger from the Wildhearts - I couldn't think of a damn thing to say to him!).

It was quite funny that I managed to meet these guys without even trying, and the night before I'd seen kids waiting in the cold outside the SECC for autographs from The Darkness that they never got.

And now things get complicated. I was sat at the table in Moshulu next to Flofe, and she was being her usual flirty self. I should perhaps point out that I've known Flofe for about a year, and she's always been quite a sexually aggressive person to meet when she's had a couple of drinks. I didn't really know her well until the start of my new course, obviously because I wasn't in Aberdeen as much as I am now.

So Flofe's being flirtatious, and directing much of this at me. Eventually Peter says "get a room", and so I'm dragged into the chill-out room in Moshulu by Flofe, apparently to freak Peter out.

Instead Flofe and I talked for a while longer, then started kissing.

Aside: This is not easy for me to write. I said when I first started this blog that I probably wouldn't write very personal posts like this because I don't like the idea of the whole world having access to my thoughts like that. Also, I don't yet know what Flofe would say if she found out I posted this - hence it won't get posted until I tell her it's written.

I did not see this coming. Despite us casually flirting all night, I hadn't suspected that Flofe liked me in that way. But here we were, altering our friendship and perhaps getting something more and better from it.

In short, a very good night was had by many, especially me.

The Daftness

To be sung to the tune of "Prince Charming" by Adam and the Ants:

Justin Hawkins, Justin Hawkins, Justin Hawkins and his brother Dannie
Don't you ever, Don't you ever, lower yourself, forgetting all your standards
Justin Hawkins, Justin Hawkins, Justin Hawkins and his brother Dannie
Don't you ever, Don't you ever, lower yourself, forgetting all your standards
Frank Poullain, Frank Poullain, and the drummer no-one know the name of
Prince Charming, Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of
Justin Hawkins, Justin Hawkins, Justin Hawkins and his brother Dannie
Don't you ever, Don't you ever, lower yourself, forgetting all your standards

Oh, it was good!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I hereby vow to never again phone a tech support line unless I have already tried everything I can think of twice, including a complete reformatting of my hard disk (even if the problem is a broken screen or dead battery). What morons!

A bit of background first: I've been taking my laptop (a two year old Acer Aspire 1300) into uni every day to do all my work on. For the last couple of weeks it has been giving me the blue screen of death at least twice a day, often blaming tcpip.sys for the problem.

I'm used to seeing blue screens - I frankly expect it from any machine I use for more than a week - but the frequency of the errors was far too great for me to ignore, so I tried to sort the problem by downloading a BIOS update from Acer's site. Trouble is, the file didn't come with any installation instructions.

Normally I'd just throw caution to the wind and run the program, but this is a BIOS upgrade, and not something to be done without care. After trying to hunt down instructions for a while, I gave up hope and ran the EXE file.

Nothing of note happened.

So I sent Acer an email asking for installation instructions. That was a week ago and I still haven't heard back.

So this morning I phoned their support line, where the recorded voice lets me know that they are aiming for 24-hour response times to all emails. Aiming is good, but if I aimed to hit a window with a stone from 50 feet away, I'd probably miss because I throw like a girl.

10 minutes of extremely loud musak and I'm through to a real person, who was less intelligent than most voice recognition phone systems. I told him that all I needed was installation instructions, but was happy enough to hand over my serial number. He couldn't find the number on his system, so had to enter my laptop's details manually. He asked what warranty I had (no idea, probably none), so I told him 1 year's worth and he replied that I'd have to pay for any repairs.


I'm not asking for repairs. I'm asking for installation instructions. Look it up on your dumb-terminal (for dumb-asses) or tell me where to hunt them down on the net. This doesn't require me sending my laptop to you.

Now that he's (finally) getting the drift, he tells me to run the file. I did try, but nothing happened. Hmm. Maybe you downloaded it "wrongly". No, it's a Zip file, and if you download a Zip "wrongly", it won't do very much for you. Neither would an Exe on its own, you cretin.

Long pause...

I'm getting tired of his stupidity and concerned for the phone bill, so I suggest that the program may need to be run from a boot disk so that the BIOS gets what it needs directly.

His response: Yes, if running the file in Windows doesn't work, try putting it on a "normal" disk and booting the machine with that in the drive.

Thanks, I'm glad I was such a help to myself. It's nice to have someone to sound ideas off. Next time I'll try a wall. I would say goodbye, but I'm not feeling very good anymore.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

When Two Worlds Collide

Last weekend I managed to end up in the same place as always, but by taking a very different route.

On Friday morning I slept in a bit, took my time showering and dressing, then opened my curtains to discover an inch of snow had fallen overnight. I was certain that I'd be late for uni, but managed to make it in on time (I'm usually about 15 minutes early so that helped).

Anyway, the layer of ice that was developing on the ground during Friday, as well as the chill in the air, meant that a night out in Aberdeen wasn't very appealing. I instead went out on Saturday, with a very vague idea of where I'd end up and with whom.

Pete and I went to the Ambassador for a spot of pool, leaving Keith at home since he was complaining of some kind of illness (wimp). All night long we were trying to arrange to meet people in town, and eventually we headed to The Monkey House (which seemed quite nice, though apparently expensive) to meet Al, Elly and their friends. 2 minutes later we were out the door, heading for Justice Mill which was absolutely packed, and not very inticing anyway (too much disco on the decks). After forcing our way to the bar, we turned back and forced our way to the exit. Such fun!

The next pub chosen was Frankenstein's, which was much quieter and relaxed. We got a quick drink here before Al and Elly went home, leaving Pete and I with their extremely drunk, all-female crowd. I think you know what's coming...

(No you dont.) Pete and I left 5 minutes later and headed for Belmont Street, hoping to find his sister. Unfortunately we couldn't raise her by phone, so instead headed for a swift drink at the Hog's Head while we decided what to do next. Pete had been texting Vicki and Rhona to arrange to meet them for a few hours by now, and I'd been texting Flofe and somehow swayed her and Suzanne into heading out for the night as well.

With the bottled swill drunk, there was still no word from anyone but Flofe, so the next logical step was to meet up with her and Suzanne in Moshulu. A couple more texts took us to Kef in an attempt to see some folk from my course briefly, but a scan of the place left us shaking our heads. Apparently we just didn't see them (a group of about 8 people!).

The choice of Moshulu had been tempting me all night: if we'd stayed with Al's friends we'd have ended up in the Cotton Club or somewhere else unappetising; with Rhona and Vicki the final destination would have been a proper club; Pete's sister would almost certainly have gone to Exodus, which I was in the week before and was pretty bored with it.

By this point, I've been in Aberdeen for about 3 hours and drank 3 pints.

So to Moshulu we went, met the ladies, got a seat and a drink, then we were overrun with computing students! After trying to find them in Kef, I'd told my coursemates I was heading to Moshulu, so they decided to join us. I felt a bit awkward at first, having thrown a bunch of male strangers at Flofe and Suzanne without warning (Pete could fend for himself!), but we all settled down fairly quickly. The boys seemed a bit down, or maybe just less willing to get enthused about Air Guitar night than whatever Liquid was playing that night.

Drinking regime: Jack, Double Jack, Double Jack .. Double Jack, Jack, Water.

I only got up on the floor for one song (a testament to the amount of pish that gets played in Moshulu these days - all the decent tunes are played early in the night when I'm too sober to "dance" and the floor too empty for me to even consider it), but had a pretty good night anyway, chatting to everyone.

After Moshulu, Pete and I went back to Flofe and Suzanne's flat to "continue drinking", a phrase that later was altered to "drinking tea". I crashed on the floor (which was the most comfortable floor I've slept on in many years), and Pete took the mini-couch. In the morning Suzanne made us cheese on toast and we all watched Red Dwarf for while.

A very good night, despite the slow build-up. A lesson to you all is that mixing with two groups of friends at once is nothing to fear, unless you're a particularly two-faced person. For me I think that only extends to my wandering accent that makes me use the word "man" a lot in front of some people, swear a lot in front of others, and use Doric around another group.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Full iPod Review

I've now owned my iPod (4th generation, 20Gb) for a few months, and think it's time to give my personal opinion on this device. This might be of use to people looking for a review that they know is not from an Apple employee (I would say a review that is reputable, but that would mean I was reputable) - I know personally that my decision to buy the iTrip radio transmitter for the iPod was influenced by Matt's posts regarding it.

First off are the good points: The sound quality when using earphones (my own, not the white iPod ones - I prefer anti-theft over style) is high quality. Using the ClickWheel to speed through all my artists is very quick, if a little tricky for fast access to the J-T range (the speed of cycling increases over time, so you often fly past this section and end up at the end before you know it, unless you go slow or use short, sharp bursts).

Carrying 4568 songs in your pocket is undeniably fantastic - during my first 2 years of uni I would listen to my MD walkman going to and from uni, and in the second 2 years at any time I was walking around on my own for a while (like in town). Before leaving my flat I would stare at my MD collection for a while, then decide what to listen to based on my mood and predicted background noise (slow songs don't work well on the SPT's Underground).

Now I can sidestep the choice stage with the Shuffle Songs option, which is almost guaranteed to please since the song range is my personal collection (I say almost please because I still need to do clean out some poorer songs). Once a song comes on that catches my ear I can choose to listen to the album its from, or all songs from the artist on random.

As a Music Management System, iTunes is very easy to use. After 2 hours with it I had effectively dropped Windows Media Player and Winamp as my players of choice. The search facility in iTunes (which I am reliably informed is based on the search system in Mac OS-X) is impressively quick and more usable than the browse facility (where you're given a list of all artists and albums). Even the built-in visualisation is impressive.

Apple deserve high praise for integrating CD ripping into iTunes, and equally high levels of scorn for not allowing you to take songs back off the iPod. When I first learned this restriction I began burning CDs of MP3s as a backup of my iPod should anything happen to it (which it almost did - see below). I continued this until I realised the number of CDs I'd need for a full backup, the time it would take and the fact that I wouldn't be able to find the album I wanted amongst the CDs with any ease.

I am nearing my iPod's full capacity, and wish I had sprung for the 40Gb version (which I wouldn't fill, but would be more likely to deal with the amount of music I buy).

I am still curious to know the algorithm used to randomise the songs on the iPod. I initially assumed that it was genuine randomness, but it seems to have certain songs that are very often chosen for early play. Also, the randomiser seems to favour newly-added songs over older, frequently played songs.

One of the most annoying quirks of the iPod is that the Clicker option (which causes the iPod to emit a click whenever you scroll between options) setting is forgotten whenever the iPod is reset. This is the only setting I have found that is reset - my equaliser preset and other options all survive a reset. Clicker was one of the first things I disabled on the iPod, as it holds almost no use at all and is simply annoying. If only I didn't have to specify this every other day!

Regarding the settings on the iPod, I still feel that the ability to upload your own equaliser presets would be useful. I am currenty using the Rock setting, which is close to what I want as I can get, but still makes vocals too loud compared to bass and treble. iTunes lets you fix this easily, but the iPod's own presets for use outwith iTunes are fixed.

With winter closing in, the days are darker and I find myself trying to use the iPod in my car with low light. A nice feature would be a Backlight button to quickly switch this on or off without using the menus that you can't see if the light is off!

Now that I drive to uni every day, I have to use iTrip to listen to music in the mornings (my ma's car only has a CD player, so my tape-walkman converter is no longer any use to me). The iTrip sound quality is very good (not as full as straight-from-CD in the car, but still good), except when I reach the Lang Stracht where suddenly gear changes, drumming a beat on the steering wheel or even the position of my arm are all causes of interference in the signal. If only the hissing was more like a heavy snare drum hit - I could remix 70's songs into industrial versions in the comfort of my car!

And now the stinger - the iPod's battery life is not as strong as I'd like it to be. I've had portable music players with battery life measured in days, not hours. Last weekend I played the iPod+iTrip at 3/4 volume from Glasgow to Aberdeen, starting with a full battery. Once I got to Aberdeen, the battery was down to about 10%.

After this I considered buying an adapter to allow the iPod to charge from my car's cigarrette lighter, but since the Gla-Abz trip is as far as I ever travel, I doubt I'll need it. It is just annoying that I have to get into a habit of charging it every night.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Enough fish on your plate?

I'm now into the third module of the Masters at Aberdeen (the course here is structured so that you get one module at a time, each for 3 weeks), and it's apparently the most difficult of the course. We're being taught RMI (in the most bizarre way), web services and J2ME.

I remember back in February or thereabouts, when I got an email about the Masters course, I was quite interested, so I looked through its website at the course content, and asked a friend at Aberdeen Uni to send me copies of past exam papers (which can't be accessed outside the uni's network). In short, I did research into the course, and from what I saw I thought it would be an extension of what I already knew from DBIT and SC.

Which is true. Except I thought I'd be learning more. So far the content doesn't go far beyond what I already knew. I could always blame DBIT for demanding so much of me in the exam (where we had to write DOM and SAX parsers), and having spent the last year using servlets was a help too. I think I just wanted something more taxing.

I was speaking to Ross at the weekend about the MSci at Glasgow, and it sounds like hell compared to what I'm doing - constantly high workload and no coding. In the latter respect I think I'm quite lucky to be in a Masters course where I get to code a lot.

Something I keep coming back to is Peter Dickman's talk to prospective students over the summer. He spoke about the various merits of different universities, not trying to exhibit bias, but finished by saying that 3 years at Glasgow is equivalent to 4 years elsewhere. I think now that 4 years at Glasgow is almost equivalent to this Masters.

But on the bright side, I've time to go out frequently, I've made new friends, getting to see the old ones more, and I'm getting paid handsomely for this.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Title This?

Just spent a slightly unusual weekend down in Glasgow. It started off horribly, with me leaving my phone charging in my bedroom (schoolboy error, as Craig noted). Fortunately, my folks joined me in Glasgow on Saturday to help move my sister from her old flat in Dennistoun to her new flat in Shawlands. Anyway, that meant I managed to get my phone back the next day.

Friday was quite relaxed: got to see Stephen, Ross and Elin, and to catch Alfie at the pics with Rachel and Craig. After the film, we headed for the underground to get back to the West End, but we found a large queue of people getting refunds for their tickets. According to the couple behind us in the queue, there was "an incident" at Kelvinbridge, and staff were waiting for the police to arrive, but all trains were stopped indefinately. The couple then asked (not in unison, but you get the idea) how they could get to Hillhead, and Craig quickly deduced that a taxi would do for us all. So we did, and it did.

Saturday was spent mainly dismantling my sister's very large bed, loading a van full of her furniture, then unpacking it all and rebuilding said bed (there was some driving in between, but you're expected to fill in the holes yourself. Include a high-speed chase with a Renault van and a battered Peugout 106 if you wish - the 106 won).

At night I met Julie for a couple of drinks in the most loud and busy version of Solid Rock I've ever seen or heard. Derek was supposed to join us, but things got complicated and rushed, and phones wouldn't work.

The next day I went climbing with many computing kids, and my dad. He'd mentioned an interest in wall climbing the last time I went, and since he was in the neighbourhood, decided to join us (despite being a bit sore from the previous day's flitting). So that was basically the first time my dad had met a lot of the people climbing that day, and everyone got along fine. I didn't manage as many climbs as I had the last time - perhaps a combination of trying too many tricky walls and lifting big bookcases the day before. Still good fun though.

I've learned that there is a climbing wall in Aboyne (a town about 25 minutes West of me), so I'll probably investigate that quite soon.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


I've just had broadband setup at home. After 8 years of dialup, I'm not sure if I can get used to this. I still feel like I'm tying up the phone line; I always have this itch that I'm burning money by leaving the connection idle (I used to pay per minute); earlier I shouted at my mum for using the phone, totally forgetting it wouldn't disconnect me.

Does anyone know of a Dialup Detox program?

Singalong to Caffeine Bomb

Another weekend of drink-fueled madness that I'm only just getting round to writing about.

Friday: There were plans to meet some of my course-mates and go to see Bubba Ho Tep, a horror film with Bruce Campbell playing a guy who thinks he's Elvis. Sounded great, but wasn't on at any cinemas by Friday, so we sprung for Coffee and Cigarrettes instead.

And with some last minute drop outs, I ended up at the cinema with only Jamie. We saw the film (a set of short stories, some good, some bad, one totally random), then met up with more people at Slains, where we drank until about 11pm.

Jamie had asked me about Cafe Drummonds before: he'd heard it was a good place for live music, and my experience with the place would agree with that. So when we left Slains, Drummonds was suggested as a place to relax for a while.


There was live music, but it was a heavy metal band. Four guitarists thrashing away; a balding guy with long hair going nuts, singing badly and running around the 50-strong crowd; not quite what the assembled masses were expecting. We stayed for one quick drink, then left for...

The Ministry. Not since I was 17 have I been to this place. They'd revamped it to look better, but it still played nothing but dance and bad remixes. Not my normal choice by any means, but I suggested it so that the other folk would have a good time - there was talk of going to Moshulu but that didn't suit the majority.

I left around 2am to get the next bus home. The place was due to shut at 3, but I'd already been standing at the edge of the dancefloor waiting for something remotely decent to dance to. Plus my friends were up by the wall (essentially a podium for 20 people), so joining them would've required a bravery transfusion (about 7 straight shots of it).

Saturday: A slightly different tack for tonight - proper music for a start!

KG, Pete and I went by Vicki and Rhona's flat, where we had a very sweet VK each, met their dug Mack (the most hyper Westie I've ever met), and got a cheap taxi into town care of Mark.

The ladies and Pedro were dressed for the ocassion, and so felt they would be more at home in Slains (a gothic pub with Halloween stuff on all week) than in Hog's Head (who weren't doing anything special for the weekend).

While in Slains, Keith was propositioned by an amazingly drunk woman. I'd elaborate more, but he's already threatened to post embarrasing comments about my past, so I'll leave it there. Anyway, we stayed in Slains for a while, went to Revolution for a bit, then on to Moshulu, where we met Sarah, Fiona and Susanne.

I'm pretty sure everyone had a really good night, even Vicki and Rhona who were first-timers at Moshulu, and enjoyed the Air Guitar selection played. They also enjoyed pole-dancing with Pete, but that's another story!